Pandemic means changes for mall Santas, Black Friday

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that is typically the start to the holiday shopping season.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, though, retailers have been hurting this year. At Brookfield Square, Santa Claus himself will be helping out.

Jolly old Saint Nick will still make an appearance at the mall and pose for pictures, but it comes with a lot of extra precautions -- especially when county health officials warn that this is the worst period of the pandemic for new infections.

"Santa is still coming to town this year.  It’s going to be very different," Melissa Cavanagh, Brookfield Square marketing director, said. "I think that most families will understand the changes that are in place in order for him to be here."

Santa normally begins posing for photos during the second week in November, leading up to Christmas. This year, he will arrive on Black Friday.

Christmas tree at Brookfield Square

Cavanagh said families will need to book reservations in advance to meet Kris Kringle. The photo area is still being built. Once completed, Santa will sit in his chair six feet behind a bench where families can gather and have their picture taken.

A contactless holiday experience, Cavanagh said everyone will be required to wear face masks -- including Santa. As an extra precaution, Cavanagh believes Santa and his helpers will all undergo regular COVID-19 testing.

"Let’s take care of each other and get through this together," Cavanagh said.

On Wednesday, Mayfair Mall announced similar measures. Both malls will also offer virtual meetings with Saint Nick. 

While Black Friday doesn't exactly lead itself to social distancing, Cavanagh said that mall security will discourage large groups and each store will have an employee stationed at the entrance.

"We don’t know what to expect for Black Friday – I don’t know what it’s going to be like. But I do know, with the stores having a greeter at the front door, that does eliminate what you’re talking about – crowds entering all at once," said Cavanagh.

For more information about Brookfield Square's Santa experiences, CLICK HERE.

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Despite the pandemic, there is a strong push to get people into the mall this season.

Two weeks ago, FOX Business reported that Brookfield Square's parent company -- CBL Properties -- filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Earlier this year, JC Penney -- now the last main anchor retailer at Brookfield Square -- filed for bankruptcy.

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